The Canucks play their last game of the preseason tomorrow night, but they have a myriad of options for what to do with their opening night roster. With 27 active players on their roster, plus the injured Chris Higgins, Canucks management will need to trim their roster by four before they play their first game of the regular season in Calgary on Wednesday.
GM Jim Benning stated before the preseason began that they would make room for young players if they deserved to be here. That’s easier said than done of course, and we will see if he keeps his word.
On defence, the Canucks looked to be set in stone with seven defencemen in the fold: Alex Edler, Chris Tanev, Dan Hamhuis, Yannick Weber, Luca Sbisa, Matt Bartkowski and Frank Corrado. But along came Ben Hutton, who has been outstanding in this preseason. He has 5 points in 6 games, ranking him second among NHL defencemen. He looks like an NHL defenceman.
But will they keep him? The answer for me is no.
Hutton looks great, but he is eligible to play for the Utica Comets without clearing waivers. The former college standout with the University of Maine has never played a full pro season, so giving him loads of ice time in the AHL seems like a prudent decision. If he lights it up there for 10-20 games, then bring him up. I wouldn’t rush him.
Cut: Hutton, Biega,
The decisions for Canucks management don’t get any easier on forward.
A pair of 19-year-olds have impressed everyone so far, in Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann. They’ve produced offensively, outplaying many Canucks incumbents.
Whereas the Canucks can delay the decision on Hutton because he can go to Utica, Jim Benning doesn’t have that luxury with Virtanen and McCann. League rules dictate that it’s NHL or junior for them.
Virtanen and McCann have proven that they deserve a shot at the NHL this season, and that’s where they should start.
Canucks nation has pitted Jared McCann vs Linden Vey, but realistically it’s Jared McCann vs Ronalds Kenins or Brendan Gaunce. Kenins has had a dreadful preseason and doesn’t need to pass through waivers while Linden Vey could be claimed by any team in the league if they try to send him to Utica. Gaunce has had a nice preseason, but doesn’t have a lot of pro experience and could use some more seasoning in Utica as well.
If the Canucks decide to keep 14 forwards, then it doesn’t make sense to risk losing an asset just to reward a young player with the 14th forward spot. The best course of action is to not risk losing any assets on the waiver wire while inserting deserving young players into the lineup. That’s why I would keep Linden Vey.
The toughest decision is Brendan Gaunce vs Ronalds Kenins. Gaunce has outplayed Kenins, but the Latvian Locomotive was so impressive last season, I’m willing to give him another chance. Couple that with the fact that Gaunce played in a bottom-six role for most of last season in Utica, and I think Gaunce could use some more AHL experience.
Keep: Virtanen, McCann, Kenins, Vey
Cut: Gaunce, Cracknell
Here’s how the Canucks’ 23-man roster would look if I were in charge:
|D. Sedin||H. Sedin||Vrbata|
|Extras: Kenins, Vey, Corrado|